Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for January, 2011

Framed

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

We flew in from Montréal, with a stopover in Chicago. I combed my hair and smoothed out the incorrigible wrinkles in my pants, before stepping out from the hot taxi into the dry heat of New Mexico.

Bending over to pick up our bag, I noticed the large stain covering the underarm of my white shirt. “Just what I need,” I fretted. “Wrinkled pants, hair that won’t stay down and stinking to high heaven.”

My face felt naked. The sun was beating it into a hot iron. Something was missing. I felt in my shirt pocket and found only damp vacancy.

“Have you seen them?” I asked Rosalita, my lover and confidant.

“Maybe there, in the bag,” she nodded towards our luggage.

“Should I put them on?”

“Go ahead,” she replied. “Take a chance.”

“You sure? You know how some people are.”

“Don’t be so paranoid,” she smirked, laying her hand on the small of my back.

“I’m trusting you on this,” I said, bending down, carefully pulling them out of their hard, plastic case in the side of the bag and placing them firmly on my face.

“How’s that?”

“Fabulous! Come on, let’s go.”

She took the sacrificial lamb by the arm and led me to the slaughter.

Sweat dripped from my forehead like a steam bath. I thought about home. It was a refreshing 42 degrees Fahrenheit when we had left that morning. Calm, sunny, delightfully cold weather had embraced the landscape, requiring long-sleeve flannel shirts to keep out the chill.

“I’d rather freeze to death, then live in this baking hell,” I thought, as we approached the adobe style home in the suburbs of Albuquerque.

Rosalita’s parents met us at the front door. She introduced her mother and father, Carmen and Francisco Morales and announced lovingly, “And this, this is my sweet Jacque.” I felt her hand guiding me forward.

Her parents looked stoically at their future son-in-law, blinked several times to clear their vision and realized I wasn’t a mirage or distant heat wave. Her mother recovered first, stepping forward and extended her large, brown-skinned hand.

“Buenos tardes Jacque,” she smiled sweetly, as if she was about to give someone on death row their last wish. “Mi casa, su casa.”

“Our house is your house,” Rosalita translated, seemingly oblivious to her parents’ demeanor.

“Thank you,” I replied to Mrs. Morales. “It’s a pleasure.”

Rosalita locked eyes on her father, who appeared to have been jolted into a sudden catatonic state of unknown proportions.

“Papa?” she said. “Papa!” Her raised voice hit him like a whip. He turned, forced a strained smile and shook my hand as if it had a sign reading, “Wet paint.”

“Come in. Come in!” her mother insisted, putting her arm around Rosalita. Her father followed robotically, carrying our bags as balancing weights to keep him grounded. I could feel his eyes flinging poisonous darts at the back of my head like a blow-gun.

It was refreshingly cool inside. “Ah. This is nice,” I sighed. “How can you stand the heat?”

“We kind of like it,” her father said brusquely.

“I guess you get use to it.”

“I guess so,” he said, turning abruptly. With our luggage in tow he walked slowly down their clean, whitewashed hallway. He had large, rough hands and moved as if he was in a military parade.

Mrs. Morales followed her husband. “Let me show you your rooms. You might want to freshen up,” she added, glancing back at the clothes hanging on my body like wet laundry. “Here’s yours,” she motioned to Rosalita, then turned to me. “You can stay in her brothers’ old room. he bathroom’s down the hall. Come out to the back patio when you’re ready. Lunch is almost done.”

“Merci . . . thank you,” I replied.

She nodded, “De nada.” then spoke to Rosalita. “Rico and Junior will be here any minute.” She kissed Rosalita. “Oh no, the enchiladas!” she exclaimed, running to the kitchen in her light green fluorescent pants and pale yellow blouse with ironed on lace.

I looked to Rosalita for an explanation. “Rico and Junior?” I’d heard of Rico and her brother Francis, but no Junior.

“My brother. Francis was named after Papa, so we just call him Junior.”

Mr. Morales squeezed between us. “Excuse me,” he mumbled and disappeared out back.

“This is a disaster,” I said out loud.

“It will be fine. Just give them a little time, OK?”

“Time’s not going to help. Did you see those looks? They don’t even know me and they hate me.”

She gave me a hug. “They don’t hate you. They’re just scared. It’s not every day their only daughter says she’s getting married.”

I tried to ignore my gut. “I hope you’re right.”

“I’ll see you in a few minutes.” She swayed coyly towards the bathroom, her long braided hair rocking in unison with her heart-shaped hips.

After drying off and changing my stained garment to a casual short-sleeved blue dress shirt, I took my skinny self and ventured out to the back patio. A gorgeous garden of blooming cactus filled the yard, with a vine-covered trellis covering the patio from the blistering sun. Her father was hand-watering a small patch of grass between the cactus and patio. He had on a large brimmed, white cowboy hat. He didn’t notice I was there until his wife came out with a basket and offered some bread.

“Have some homemade bread.”

“Thank you,” I replied and proceeded to devour three pieces in a row. “This is delicious.” I licked my fingers, seeing that she was making a religious effort to be cordial. “What is it?”

“Cornbread . . . Jalapeño cornbread. You’ve never had cornbread?”

“Never,” I innocently replied.

“How could you live without cornbread?” Mr. Morales interjected loudly. “Rosalita has surely made you some of her mother’s famous cornbread?”

“No.”

Her father looked accusingly at Mrs. Morales, who frowned back, shaking her slightly rouged cheeks in utter dismay.

“We eat out mostly,” I explained, “or I cook up something at home. I’m pretty good with a little sauce and some wine.”

“You cook?” Mr. Morales exclaimed, as if I’d told him I was a serial killer. I nodded. “I need a drink,” he exclaimed and headed towards the house. Before disappearing he stopped and turned. “You want a margarita, beer or something?”

“A margarita?” He shook his head in disgust. “Water would be fine, thanks.” He nodded, visibly vexed and went inside.

“Please,” Mrs. Morales motioned towards the flower-decorated picnic table laid out methodically with shiny silverware and maroon and turquoise ceramic dishes. Before the bottom of my fifty/fifty percent nylon and cotton pants touched the wooden bench she asked, “Where are you from Jacque?”

She plunked down directly across the table, leaned forward and waited for me to continue. Her well-rounded, bronzed face had wrinkled crowfeet protecting her knowing eyes, bordered by thick black and gray hair. She sat like a voyeuristic priest, waiting for a secret revelation or confession.

“Montréal. Actually, a little town north of Montréal. I’m sure you haven’t heard of it. It’s called Saínte-Thérèse.”

“I’m sorry,” she smiled. “I don’t know Montréal.”

“It’s in Quebec province. Do you know where that is?”

“It’s in Canada, right?”

I nodded, bemused with Americans’ ignorance of geography.

“But where are you from originally?” she persisted. “Your family . . . your people.”

“We grew up in Saínte-Thérèse. Our parents moved to Toronto for awhile in the early sixties, but didn’t like the crowds, so we moved back to Saínte-Thérèse.”

“No, no. I don’t mean where you grew up.” She shook her head. “Your parents . . . your people?”

“My parents met in Quebec,” I offered. She shook her head and was about to give up when I smelled Rosalita’s sweet fragrance. She hugged me from behind, sat down, looked over at her mother and saw her frustration.

“What’s wrong Mama?”

“Nothing,” her mother said, looking away.

“Your Mom was wondering where I was from. You know; my family and stuff.”

“Mama, shame on you!”

Her mother got up and went towards the house.

“He’s from Iceland!” Rosalita shouted. “Or is it Sweden?” she said to her mother’s back. “One of those bleached white, Northern Anglo families!”

An involuntary sigh escaped from my throat. “I should have seen it coming.”

She gave me a squeeze. “It’s just ignorance.”

“Perhaps,” I replied sadly. “Whoever said ‘ignorance is bliss’ must have been pretty stupid.”

Angry sounds drifted from the kitchen with unintended clarity. We could hear bits and pieces of jumbled distress. “I am not!” her father exclaimed. “You don’t like it any better than I do!”

“Don’t say that!” her mother shouted. “It doesn’t mean a thing to me.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Shhhhh . . .” her mother countered.

“How long are we staying . . . a week?” I asked. “By then I’ll have been drawn and quartered or systematically tolerated to death!”

CONTINUED

Advertisements

Casablanca Affair

“Could I have your attention please? This is the last call for British Airways, Flight 389 at Gate Twelve. Last call to Tangiers andnCasablanca, Gate Twelve.”

“Casablanca? No, it couldn’t be?” I thought excitedly. “Were they speaking of THE Casablanca? Was this a real plane or a fake, like in the movie?”

I fervently scanned the Departing Schedule monitor to make sure I hadn’t been mistaken. There it was, in black and white or more accurately, in dimming gray and fluorescent green.

FLIGHT 389. CASABLANCA. GATE 12. DEPARTING – 4:55 PM

I’d been waiting for over three hours, in-between flights, at Heathrow International Airport, when the first call for Casablanca registered in my mushy, travel-weary brain. I had been silently watching the un-choreographed dance of humanity crawling along. People walked, sat, ran, talked, ate, looked, shook hands or read. Some wore coats of self-confidence; others were lost, nervous, sad, happy, depressed, scared, flamboyant or lonely.

There was a couple sleeping nearby; apparently oblivious to the fact they were in one of the busiest international air terminals in the world. They were sprawled length-wise, on a beige, plastic bench, their heads barely touching, mutually matted brown hair covering their cheeks and their eyes shut tight as a rolled up armadillo. The woman’s left hand held the strap to her patched, faded backpack, while her right covered her vacant, pale face. Her young partner was snoring slightly, air whistling in and out of his thin-lipped mouth, while his arm hung loosely, swaying back and forth with his breath, like laundry blowing in a breeze.

Nearby, a gawky, wide-eyed, pimply-faced boy was glued to an electric video machine with its flashing lights and bombarding sounds wailing away. He was cradling it, fondling it, embracing it; unable to pry himself away from its powerful promise of momentary oblivion from adolescent angst and self-centered isolation.

I’d just grown weary of the surrounding drama and taken pen and paper from my bag, to write a love letter, when the proper English voice distinctly called for all passengers to Tangiers/Casablanca.

After having contradicted my initial disbelief, by checking the glowing, flickering screen for departures, I collapsed back onto the bench and was carried away to Arabs, French, Nazis, freedom-fighters, Rick’s, gambling, humidity, “the usual suspects”, Peter Laurie, Claude Reins and the fearsomely gorgeous, sophisticated, enchanting, Ingrid Bergman; who is gazing longingly and tenderly at Humphrey Bogart, then Paul Henreid and back to Bogey. Her eyes are wet with emotion, not knowing whom to choose or what to do. My heart is pumping loudly, as I silently dream, “Me! Me! Take me!” Her sensuous hand reaches towards mine with vulnerability and determination. I knowingly pull her to me, feel her softness upon my chest and . . . “ Last call for Algiers and Casablanca on British Air at Gate Twelve.”

My eyes opened to the sterile, modern scenery of Terminal One. I saw the back of someone in a three-piece suit running down the hallway towards Gate Twelve. His black, hard-soled shoes echoed loudly as they hit the floor. I held my breath, watched him turn the corner and disappear from sight. My body shivered with regret, knowing I would never take that flight. Even if I had the time, money and inclination, my heart wouldn’t allow it. The real Casablanca would destroy my passionate Hollywood affair with Ingrid and our knowing glances of a love worth dying for.

The time for my flight back to the States was finally announced. I slowly came too, wearing my melancholy like a crumpled coat. Picking up my well-traveled suitcase, I proceeded slowly towards the designated holding pen to await further instructions. When our row of seats was called, I obediently handed over my ticket and slumbered down the corridor towards the familiar passageway that led to the known world I called home.

As I was about to step on the plane I suddenly froze, looked blankly at the welcoming flight attendant, glanced out across the tarmac and wondered, “Why not?

Lockdown

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

“We ask for forgiveness, hope and redemption,” John prayed, as Marcus walked in. “Make us a vessel of your peace,” John continued, his brawny hands turned toward the heavens.

Marcus joined the circle of two and closed his blue eyes to the surrounding maroon drapery, scented candles and large marble cross crucified to the wall.

“Our plan is your plan,” Alan interjected, his blond hair and wire-rim glasses both askew. “You are the source of all we do; you are the light that guides our way.”

“Amen,” John concluded, his booming voice matching his six foot seven inch frame.

“Sorry I’m late,” Marcus said, looking up at John.

“No problem,” John replied, his full red beard stirring with each syllable.

“It was Lois,” Marcus explained. “You know how she gets.”

“Yeah,” John said aloud; then whispered to him self, “I know how she gets.”

“She gets scared,” Marcus went on, “whenever we make this trip.”

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Alan replied, putting his hand on Marcus’s shoulder. “It’s safer than walking the streets downtown,” he insisted, getting his lunch and coat from the red velvet coach and turning back to Marcus. “Statistically speaking, it’s even more dangerous at home.”

“That’s true,” John affirmed.

“You don’t have to convince me,” Marcus replied, clutching the Corrigan sweater in his pale sweaty palm. “It’s Lois who’s all worked up about it.”

They left the prayer room and walked towards the Volvo in the church parking lot. “Oh yeah, Lois sends her love,” Marcus said to John, “and she said she’s sorry for everything.” John cleared his throat, but didn’t reply. “I guess she finally got tired of blaming you for taking me on these trips,” Marcus grinned knowingly.

“Why couldn’t it be closer?” Alan mused from the back seat. “Six hours round trip is a long way to save a few souls.”

“It’s nothing compared to what the Lord has done for us,” Marcus replied solemnly, as he looked out the window at the dusty farm land of the central valley.

“Amen,” John and Alan agreed, as the car cut through the murderously dry heat. The men unbuttoned the top of their collars and rolled up the white sleeves of their dress shirts. It wasn’t long until they closed the windows and turned the air conditioning on high.

“If you want a break, just holler,” Marcus offered.

“Nah,” John replied, “You know I prefer driving . . . gives me something to focus on.”

“Focus on God,” Marcus exalted.

“Of course,” John’s lips curled into a half grin. “I do.”

“I didn’t say you didn’t,” Marcus corrected. “I just meant . . . you know . . . thinking of others . . . letting go and letting God.”

“Yeah,” John replied. “I got it. I think about some folks all the time Marcus,” his grip tightening on the wheel, “some more than others.”

“Yes, yes,” Marcus replied. “You’re a saint.”

“It’s all God’s work,” Alan surmised.

“There you go, “John grinned, the tension drained from his shoulders as quickly as it had arrived. “It’s all God’s work.”

“Why don’t I read a few passages from Luke?” Marcus suggested, pulling out his gold-leafed bible.

“Read it loud, so I can hear,” Alan insisted.

“No problem,” Marcus replied joyfully. “Here we go. I’ll start with the fifth chapter, twelfth verse.”

It didn’t take long to arrive, only forever.

“I’m beat,” Alan said, as they ate lunch in the garage designated for visitors.

“We just got here,” Marcus mumbled, his mouth full of an avocado sandwich Lois had made, “and you’re already tired?”

“I know,” Alan replied, wiping mayonnaise off his chin, “but that’s a long time to sit on your rear end.”

They finished up lunch, locked the car up tight and joined in prayer.

“Help us to help them to see the truth,” Marcus pleaded. “Let your truth bathe them with your glory. May they be cleansed of sin? Amen.”

“Amen,” Alan chimed.

“Amen,” John added, his eyes wide open, staring at his baby brother’s seemingly blissful and serene profile.

After the meticulous searches, sign-ins and checkpoints, the officers escorted the men from God’s House Church past the towers with guards holding binoculars and high-powered rifles, to the D Block chapel, which stood alone in the center of the state penitentiary built for 1200 men, but holding 1700 plus. It was their fourth visit of the year.

The guard, named Jim, but better known as Big Preacher, due to his size and professed faith, allowed the inmates with passes to enter single file.

CONTINUED

Lee Mun Wah – Color of Fear

Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

“Your mother’s been murdered!” The woman who gave you birth and taught you the meaning of love, care and family is dead. Her life intentionally ended by another man. This was the cold reality Mr. Lee, his father, grandparents and siblings had to face in 1985. Feelings of fear, anger, rage and revenge soon replaced the numbed existence of shock. Instead of letting these intense, understandable reactions control his life Mr. Lee searched for answers. He began to reach out, to confront and explore the ingrained, unconscious attitudes that lead to hate and violence and discovered a way to shift the imbalances of power, heal the wounds and open our hearts.

As a seminar leader, speaker and filmmaker, Mr. Lee’s work has been highly visible, effective and utilized throughout the nation. His first film Stolen Ground, about racism towards Asian-Americans, won special merit at the San Francisco International Film Festival. His second video, of a weekend encounter group for men, The Color of Fear, won the 1995 National Education Media Award for best social studies documentary and has been used in thousands of organizations and businesses to deal with and discuss prejudice, bias and race. Mr. Lee’s current project, Walking Each Other Home, provides both an example and a means for Americans to understand, accept and support our honest differences and realities while honoring the unique, compassionate spirit within us all.

LEE MUN WAH:

I was born in Oakland, California at a time when people were living in mixed neighborhoods. I had a real glimpse of what a community could look like with all different ethnicities. My parents were very poor, though as a child I didn’t know that. Some of the distinct things I remember were that there were very few Asians in my classes and very few or almost no Asian-American or African-American teachers. When I noticed this consciously it became a real loss.

I was born into a very alive, dynamic family. I always thought that all Chinese families were like this. It wasn’t until later that I realized my father was a very unique man who really believed in going out in the world and creating what you wanted. He influenced me greatly in that way. My mother was very warm and personable; very intimate and in that way created my sense of family, of being close to people.

A lot of these life experiences prepared me, without my knowing, for the type of work I do now, when I talk about the country having a national relationship. It’s about how a family treats each other. I don’t think it’s just a sense of family, it’s also part of our Asian, Chinese culture . . . that we’re there for one other . . . that we respect and honor each others needs . . . the warmth, security and safety of a family . . . being up front and honest . . . trying to be a good person in the world and with those you meet. A number of people have that in there culture as well, but I don’t think many have made the connection of family into a larger community, in a global or workplace perspective and I think that is the missing link.

The American thing is often, “Me, me, me!” Business is first and task oriented and not loyal to workers. When business is down or they’re “restructuring” and they lay you off, they’re actually saying, “You are no longer needed, the company is more important.” It isn’t about taking care of the people who work for you but about having them compete with each other. I don’t run my family or workplace that way. And when I go out into the world that’s something I work for, to change that paradigm.

I don’t think you can legislate an end to racism. You have to have a change of heart. That’s why I talk about a relationship. It’s the only real connection we have. Often, we don’t act until there’s a crisis. What we need to realize is that the crisis is happening every single day and there’s always something you can do to address it.

We’ve never understood culture in this country. We think it’s the food, the costume or the holiday, but we don’t touch what it really means to us on a spiritual, emotional, ancestral way. When the American Indian tells us that it’s not enough to pass the sage around the room but to really understand where that comes from. To understand the relationships and the way we treat each other; that it’s really expressed in our movements, in what we don’t say, the way we hold each other, the way we wait for and acknowledge one other. We don’t take the time to really look, to really experience. Americans want everything fast . . tangible. The American Indian is right when they say, “You want my customs, my rituals and my land, but you don’t want me.” What we do is we use people and cultures. We use them when it’s convenient, for a service, for artifacts. Rarely do we take the time to understand how we relate to each other.

We don’t look into the realm of what we don’t know. I think that’s the part I’m talking about. When I do workshops I have people look around the room, listen to silence; listen to what’s not being said, to bodies that are talking all the time. We usually don’t listen to the nonverbal, to the energy in a room, to the impact of our ancestors that have brought us to this place. We are very present and future oriented but don’t pay enough homage or respect to the past. When are we open to learn from other cultures . . . to integrate values from other cultures? When companies say they’re multi-cultural or multi-racial I ask them to name one cultural factor they’ve integrated, that they see as practical, as useful, that they use every single day.

The turning point for me (after my mother was murdered) was when I wrote a play in which I acted out facing my Mom’s murderer. It also helped to look at the context from where it came. I tried to find and talk to the man who killed my mother, to no avail. On the day we finished The Color of Fear he was sentenced to life in prison. He’d killed four or five other women in addition to my Mom. Before that I had continued trying to contact his family. It turns out that some of his relatives lived in a home we’d been renting. It was really shocking. I talked to the woman who lived there and she said a cousin of hers had killed someone as well. When she went to his trial she had to leave because all she could see was “The little boy I’d grown up with”. She told me, “You may never know why he did it.”

Had my mother not been murdered, I’d never had made the film (The Color of Fear). I began to really see and sense that perhaps there was a meaning to this. It serves my healing and in many ways it’s healing for this country as well, because surely if I can go through this then others can open their hearts and have compassion as well. I’m not so sure hatred or guns or bars do any good . . . it only makes fear larger. Fear is not something you can protect yourself from, you have to walk through it. CONTINUED

MORE

Saint Catherine’s Baby

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

The moist air, surrounding the 16th century creation planted its wet kisses upon the cold stone walls, which slid luxuriously down its weathered face. The creeping ivy, chlorophyll pulsing through its dark green leaves, caressed the soft hearty moss. New generations of recently born shoots sprouted from the elder ivy’s fingertips, seeking their lone paths in the cracks of St. Catherine’s monastery.

The religious encampment had been built on the storm infested Western coast of Ireland; its founders seemingly intent on locating the most masochistic environment possible to beat their souls into sublime submission.

The last residing nun, Sister Rose Marie, had died a blessedly sudden and peaceful death at two in the afternoon, on an unusually balmy Easter Sunday, in the year of Our Lord 1968. She and a faithful supporter, Mrs. Bernadette O’Brien, mother of Walter O’Brien, had been on their knees praying in the chapel when it appeared that the good sister had a heart attack and keeled over quietly onto the floor.

“Her hands was frozen in prayer, they was,” Mrs. O’Brien had religiously repeated for years thereafter. “She had the smile of an angel.”

***

Shawn and Marcy didn’t give a witch’s ass about the history of St. Catherine’s. They’d been driving randomly from county to county, looking frequently in their rear view mirror; expecting nothing but trouble.

They’d discovered St. Catherine’s while returning from an off-the-road farm, where a farmer had given them a couple gallons of petrol from his broken down tractor. While carrying the fuel back in a couple of plastic milk containers, they accidentally turned right, instead of left to their energy starved car.

“’Tis this way,” Shawn said with assurance.

“’Tis not,” Marcy insisted. “Was that way.”

Shawn frowned, shaking his head impatiently.

“Remember that rock, why don’t ya?!” Marcy pointed at a large chipped boulder to her left.

“I’m a going this way. You coming or not?” He started walking without waiting for her answer.

She trudged after him, complaining to the gravel below her feet, “An idiot, he is.”

When they rounded the bend that brought St. Catherine’s into sight, Marcy gasped.

“Jesus!” Shawn exclaimed,

“It must be ancient.” Marcy stumbled forward.

“Think they be any dragons?” Shawn teased.

They pushed hard upon a rusty-hinged, thick wooden door. It cracked open. The wind played with itself in the center of the courtyard, rising, turning, diving and suddenly taking flight. Calls of “Anyone home?” were absorbed into the stones like water in a dry sponge.

“Why’d they build such hideous things?” Marcy whispered, as they walked into a shadowy, stale room, her dirty black hair stranded on her shoulders.

“They must’ve been tilted.”

“A bunch of bloody lunatics!” Marcy scowled.

“Absolutely,” Shawn agreed, his bushy red hair, freckles and twice broken nose, nodding obediently.

Marcy had on a long coat to cover her thin, full-length skirt. She hated skirts, but couldn’t tolerate much else these days. “I can’t wait to get back into some jeans,” she said, looking down at her swollen belly. “Without this coat I’d have frozen my tits off by now.”

“Look at these windows!” Shawn said, “They’re small enough for dwarfs.”

Marcy pulled open a door to some side rooms that contained a single wooden platform for a bed in each small musty enclosure.

Shawn looked in over her shoulder. “What a dreary thing.”

“They was some awful poor brothers this lot.”

“Didn’t know there was anyone with less than we.”

“Och, but they chose it, didn’t they?”

After further investigation they returned to the trail and found their car. They parked close to the rocky path leading down to the sea’s edge and hauled their belongings back to the monastery, into the warmest, best protected room they’d found; the chapel.

They had enough food for a couple of weeks, groceries they’d picked up in County Clare, using a stolen credit card they’d lifted upon leaving Dublin. They could drive back when they needed, go to another store or town and use a different card. They thought about switching the car, but figured they had a little more time before it was reported missing.

As darkness fell, they zipped their sleeping bags together, put them on the torn carpet by the altar and tried to get some rest. It didn’t help that Marcy had to pee again and again. There was no indoor plumbing. It seemed as if she’d just snuggled in and gotten all warm and toasty like, when nature urgently called. The freezing wind coming off the Atlantic screamed over her head as she rushed to and from the outhouse. CONTINUED

MORE

Spanking New – A Novel

Unique is often over used in relation to artistic expression and though the concept for this novel is not entirely new (movies like Look Who’s Talking and the first Back To The Future have similar narrators looking at life before they are born), it is no stretch to say this book is indeed a unique work of art and a joy to read.

Spanking New by Clifford Henderson is a story told from an unborn beings perspective (referred to as a “Floating Soul”) about her parents, how she chooses them, her eventual conception and all of the friends and family relationships that are involved in her upcoming life, when she is born into the “Land of Forgetting”. She is a Floating Soul waiting to become a “Me”.

The author’s use of the written word is theatrical (in the best sense) and captures feelings, experiences, thoughts and emotions that readers can identify with in them selves and/or others. As Spanky, which she (who wants to be a he) is often referred to in utero, says, “Words are one of the primary tools you get in the Land of Forgetting.”

We are taken for a sweet ride of language and gender calisthenics’, as we witness the meeting of Spanky’s soon to be parents, Nina and Rick and Nina’s friends Pablo and Dink. The description of Spanky’s conception and differences of yin and yang are hilarious. Once conceived, Spanky identifies her self as an “Anchored Soul” and the drama, humor and questions of identity and gender are intensified and explored individually and collectively.

At one point Spanky, in her observation’s of how some people think and are conditioned in the Land of Forgetting, says, “Maybe her refusal to admit she likes girls has to do with those nasty assumptions and opinions I’ve been warned about. They could for sure make a girl feel like she should like boys.” Rick and Nina’s wedding turn a lot of stereotypes upside down, but doesn’t let go of the prejudice and realities that still exist. In fact, that is one of the strong points of the story. What is accepted as “normal” or “expected” is questioned and often confounding to Spanky, as she awaits her arrival into this strange milieu of “shoulds” and “should nots”. In some respects, it is like an alien from another planet who is on a scouting mission to observe human culture and behavior and can see into our hearts and minds.

Ms. Henderson is a keen observer of what is said and what is unsaid. Conversations between characters are not just seen; they are felt. Spanky tells us what is happening, what may take place and what the person is thinking and feeling behind and underneath the words that are stated and the actions taken. We learn why a situation and reaction is as it is and why people do what they do (or don’t do).

Spanking New is a wonderful story. The birthing scene alone makes it worth reading and took me back to several different births I’ve been privileged to witness. The description of Charlottes (Nina’s Mom) prayer during her daughter’s labor and her conception of the God Charlotte is praying too, is precious. It beautifully describes how much we make God into our image of what we need and perceive at a given moment, as opposed to the other way around.

This is one newly converted fan, who is looking forward to Clifford’s forthcoming book titled Maye’s Request.

Keep Barking

Keep Barking by Habyarimana Emmanuel is an excerpt from The Skin of Lions: Rwandan Folk Tales. These stories were told by the children at the ROP Center for Street Children (Rwandan Orphan’s Project). A photo of each storyteller is included in the book.

There was a man who liked his dog very much. He would walk with his dog every day. One day, the man got sick and stayed home alone in his house. The dog watched over him.

After a few days, the dog went to the neighbors, stood near their doors, and started barking. It barked for so long the neighbors finally came to see what was happening. The dog kept barking and walked away. The neighbors followed the dog to its house and found the man who was sick. They took him to the clinic and he got better.

The man loved his dog more than ever. They went walking together every day again.

MORE STORIES

Tag Cloud